By: David Lockwood

Boats built to tackle protected waterways don’t get much better than the 180 Bay Scout, according to David Lockwood

I’ve long been a fan of foam-filled ‘unsinkable’ sportsfishing boats. Boston Whaler comes to mind. They’re great boats, earning a spot on the top of anglers’ wish lists. There are others, too, but Scout is one brand that, up until now, has slipped under the radar. We’re talking serious Whaler competition and, in this well-travelled trailerboat tester’s view, the 180 Bay Scout could be the ultimate estuary sportsfisher.
Without trying to sound like a brochure, the Scout oozes quality from the moment you set your eyes on it. The mouldings, the finish, the fittings speak volumes for this South Carolina, US, boatbuilder. It’s a boat built for the saltwater, which isn’t surprising given that South Carolina is home to many great fishing boats. Scout has been among them for 13 years.
Building 1500 boats each year, Scout has an especially strong following among serious sportsfishers prepared to pay extra for performance. The range of 24, predominantly made up of trailerboats from 17 to 28ft, includes centre consoles, walkarounds, bay boats, flats boats and fish ’n’ ski hybrids.
Now this is where this boat gets really interesting. Centre consoles and walkarounds we have seen; flats boats, well, there are a few here and there, ditto hybrid fish/ski rigs. But a dedicated bay boat? How cool is that? We have bays and, right now, light-tackle fishing is all the rage.
Could this be the ultimate harbour boat? I was hoping for some fishing action, so it was great to see the Bay Scout arrive with a spread of top-shelf flick sticks, boxes of soft-plastic and hard-bodied lures.
The 180 Bay Scout is best described as a hybrid sportsfisher blending the best of a flats or deck boat — things like fore and aft casting platforms, for example — with a smart centre console. A lot of thought has gone into keeping the decks snag-free for saltwater fly fishing or light tackle work. And, while it’s a low profile boat, there’s a high degree of buoyancy for trolling the washes around headlands and running to near-shore reefs in fair weather.
The integrity of this boat begins with the impressive hull, a so-called Air-Assisted number with a moderate 16 degrees of deadrise aft, a planing plank, and wide chines designed for static buoyancy and lift when underway. Scout touts fuel efficiency as one of its manufacturing strengths, but another is surely the construction.
The handlaid hull and deck are joined with a reverse shoebox joint and bonded. There is not a splinter of timber in the boat. It has composite stringers and closed-cell foam filling instead. All Scout boats, including this Bay model, have level and upright buoyancy and this 180 is self draining, with waterproof hatches and overboard discharge. Thus, there’s no stinky bilge full of fish slime.
Backed by a 10-year limited warranty and three-year stem-to-stern warranty, the Bay Scout boasts an upmarket fitout. There’s high-density foam and top-quality vinyl for all the seats, two-part moulded hatches with gelcoat on both sides, stainless steel rub rails, drinkholders and rodholders – with drains, no less – and all through-hull fittings, which are bronze with double hose clips, have glassed-in reinforcing. The attention to detail is great.

Packaged on a tough Australian single-axle Dunbier trailer with brakes, and with a 140hp four-stroke Suzuki (recommended 90 to 115hp) with plenty of poke, the Scout looks full of fishing intent. The optional Flag Blue hull adds to the eye candy, with the only other option being a tackle centre at the helm.
As tested, the package cost $52,900 (available from $44,900), but you can see what your money buys: a premium product with great performance… But first the layout, which is simply, cleverly, geared for fishing, starting with a wonderful fully-moulded liner and integrated fishing features.
The bow casting platform is finished in a superior grade of non-skid rather than the cheap flow-coat type too often seen on local boats. There’s a split navigation light and, yes, a deep anchor well. The cleats are pop-up models and all the hinges are snag-free. The boat comes with a plug for the optional trolling motor.
Storage exists in a large, insulated bow icebox that can double as dry storage for safety gear. There is a second insulated fishbox under the seat ahead of the centre console.
A stainless steel bowrail traces the gunwales, providing additional handholds and support when casting or fighting fish. You could mount some near-horizontal rodholders here for trolling minnow lures.
The boat comes with two heavy-duty recessed rodholders in the aft quarters, beside the big rear casting platform. The transom also has port and starboard storage hatches, the latter being plumbed to create a decent livebait tank with aerated sprayer and rounded corners to keep your bait swimming.
Rod storage comes via three foldaway rod racks along the hull sides and a vertical rack for three outfits beside the helm console. That’s nine outfits and, surely, all bases covered.
Meanwhile, you can access the bilge through a hatch under the helm seat, reach the batteries mounted off the floor, the bait pump, bilge pump and fuel filter. The boat has decent aft cleats and a deck filler for the 128lt underfloor fuel tank, whose sender you can access through an inspection port. That’s plenty of fuel for a full day’s light-tackle lure fishing.
The centre console is a cut above those normally found on a production boat. Besides the optional two-tray tackle centre, it featured a standard-issue pull-out deckwash, a solid stainless steel steering wheel, and high windscreen with a grabrail that you could swing off.
The switch panel is in keeping with those you would find on much bigger boats and has circuit breakers for lights. The stainless steel bezels on the gauges for the Suzuki outboard – trim, speedo, tacho and fuel – add to the sense of purpose.
The wheel and throttle are, cleverly, offset to port on the double console so, when fishing two-up, you can both sit on the bench seat and the boat runs level. One-up, you have room to move to the centreline to keep the boat on an even keel.
The seat itself has a folding backrest that creates a leaning post for those runs across rough water. Under the seat is a 68lt Igloo portable icebox for carry-on bait and/or lunch supplies. A fully-cocked bay fisher, that’s for sure.
Despite the Suzuki 140hp outboard being beyond the 90hp-115hp recommended by Scout, the boat has a 150hp maximum rating. Two things to consider: the Suzuki 140hp is a lightweight four-stroke, and the boat’s rear buoyancy easily carries its weight.
I was thrilled to find a decent engine well on this boat and excellent buoyancy and stability from the 2.32m beam. You don’t feel like you’re going to ship water and, just moving around, the boat feels as solid as a rock. But being self draining, what does it matter if water does come aboard? Bucket it down if you’ve got a bleeder.
While impressive at rest, where the uncluttered platform gets the casting arm jittering — though we failed to raise a strike all day — the boat is great underway. I’ve driven deeper-veed 18-footers, but this features a great mix of flats-style stability and deadrise for cutting the waves.
The harbour wasn’t exactly calm, either, with wind waves and boat wash higher than the gunwales. Yet the Bay Scout took it in its stride. At 3000rpm the hull planed at 13.5kts and at 3500rpm I stood and cruised through the rough stuff at 19.5 to 20kts.
But at 4000rpm, you get a snappy 23.5 to 24kt cruise and, if conditions allow, 4500rpm returns 29.5kts. Top speed, two-up, at 6000rpm was 41.5kts. And this boat is great to throw around with the standard non-feedback steering and flat skiff-like skating motion through the turns.
To summarise, here’s a boat that applies very well to Australian waters. It has a great build quality, an intelligent layout for serious fishing, and integrity that goes beyond what you will find in most production boats.
Given that estuary, bay and river fishing is all the buzz these days, the 180 Bay Scout is bound to find some buyers. It could just be the perfect harbour fishing boat… did I mention I liked it?
Extremely seaworthy
Brilliant build quality
Superb stability
Big inventory with plenty of storage
Premium price compared to the usual bay fishing tinnie
No protection from the elements, but that’s skiff fishing
A lot of weight aft on one side will see some ingress of water through the scuppers, but a pair of Crocs is all you need

Specifications: Bay Scout 180

Price as tested: $52,900 w/ Suzuki 140hp four-stroke outboard, Dunbier trailer and options
Options fitted: Engine upgrade, Flag Blue hull, trailer, tackle centre in console, safety gear, regos, and more
Priced from: $44,900 w/ 90hp four-stroke outboard on trailer
Material: Handlaid GRP or fibreglass with composite stringers and level and upright foam flotation
Type: Moderate-vee planing hull
Length overall: 5.275m inc. integrated swim platform
Beam: 2.32m
Deadrise: 16 degrees at transom
Draft: 20cm
Weight: Approx 545kg (base boat, hull only)
Fuel capacity: 128lt
Water capacity: Not applicable, but raw-water deckwash provided.
People: Five
Rec. HP: 90 to 115
Maximum HP: 150
Make/model: Suzuki DF140
Type: Four-cylinder petrol four-stroke 16-valve DOHC outboard
Rated HP: 140 at 5600 to 6200rpm
Displacement: 2.044lt
Weight: Approx 190kg
Gearboxes (make/ratio): 2.59:1
Props: Standard 23-inch three-blader
Sportsfishing Boats Australia,
105 Batt Street, Penrith, NSW, 2750
Phone: (02) 4732 524

Originally published in TrailerBoat #216


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